March 15, 1827, King's College - the precursor to the University of
Toronto - was granted its royal charter by King George IV. Throughout
2002, U of T celebrated 175 years of Great Minds. As part of the
celebration, the U of T website featured excerpts from The
University of Toronto: A History, written by Martin Friedland, University
Professor and Professor Emeritus of Law at U of T.
the apolitical "silent generation" of students of the 1950s,
students in the 1960s on the whole were vocal, active, and involved
in a wide range of issues. Student leaders such as Bob Rae, a member
of the Commission on University Government, established in 1968, and
later the premier of Ontario, and Steven Langdon, the president of the
Students' Administrative Council and later an NDP member of parliament,
wanted to reform the University of Toronto in particular and universities
"There is an
ugly undercurrent, deep and irrational."
such as Andrew Wernick, a member of the far-left Students for a Democratic
Society (SDS) and now a professor of sociology at Trent University,
and William Schabas, also a member of SDS and now director of the Irish
Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland, wanted
more fundamental, radical changes in society and the universities.
Claude Bissell's strategy was to work closely with the former group
and try to prevent their alignment with the more extreme students. The
University of California at Berkeley had experienced a major disturbance
in 1964, and universities throughout the world were anticipating problems.
After meeting some student leaders in the spring of 1965, Bissell noted
in his diary, "There is an ugly undercurrent, deep and irrational."
many reasons why students became politically active at universities
throughout the world in the second half of the 1960s. The American civil
rights movement played a part, as did - particularly in Canada - the
nuclear disarmament campaign. But the Vietnam war was probably the most
important factor. "No political event," wrote Bob Rae in his
autobiography, "so galvanized opinion on the campus as the Vietnam
war." The universities, many activist students felt, were part
of the so-called military-industrial complex that supported the war.
The more extreme students wanted to "liberate" the university
from its influence. The many young men who came to Canada to avoid the
American draft also contributed to the politically charged atmosphere
protest against the Vietnam war in front of Convocation Hall in
1965, when Adlai Stevenson, the United States ambassador to the
United nations, received an honorary degree
during the decade rejected parental and other authority, and the universities
were thought to be authoritarian institutions. The permissiveness that
came with the birth control pill as well as the drug culture contributed
to this defiance of authority. The 1960s saw the creation of Rochdale
College on Bloor Street, a large high-rise self-governing student residence,
officially unconnected with the university, but where many students
and staff lived. Rochdale attempted alternative forms of teaching and
learning, and some of the reform ideas concerning the University of
Toronto emanated from the "college."
end of the decade, another lifestyle issue, sexual orientation, became
the subject of discussion and active organization on the campus. In
the fall of 1969, after the liberalization of the criminal code, the
first gay and lesbian group in Toronto and on any Canadian campus -
the University of Toronto Homophile Association - was formed. Jearld
Moldenhauer, a research assistant in the faculty of medicine who would
later establish the Glad Day Bookstore and help found the gay liberation
magazine The Body Politic, placed a four-line classified advertisement
in the Varsity, asking others to join in setting up an organization.
The first meeting drew 16 people - 15 men and 1 woman.
"It was soon
spawning, activist development beyond the campus."
little more than a year," political science professor David Rayside
has written, "the group, under its first president Charlie Hill,
a graduate student in art history and later a curator at the National
Gallery of Canada, had established a significant community profile in
and beyond the City of Toronto, challenging discrimination in law, in
policing, and other arenas
It was soon spawning," Rayside
went on to state, "activist development beyond the campus."
decades later, Rayside himself would organize the Committee on Homophobia
on the campus, and ten years after that he would help introduce a sexual
diversity studies program at University College.